Careers expert Matthew Turner advises a housebuilder who is having trouble finding an architect he can recommend to clients
I run a building firm in a rural area. I have a constant flow of work, quite often whole house building or major refurbishment. Frequently my clients need me to recommend an architect. I have one who is good but she is retiring, so I have been trying others in my area. I am shocked at how hard they are to work with: they either set silly fees so don’t get the job, or design with no regard to how to build, which makes my pricing of the project difficult, making me look bad to the client. Where do I find a good architect?
It is an ironic inversion of the usual tired cliché that a good builder is as rare as hens’ teeth, and here you are evidently struggling the other way. I say evidently, as you forwarded some plans as an example, and I can completely see what you mean. Huge cantilevered eaves here, angles and kinks there, all not doing much architecturally with painful details to resolve, the overall effect fussy and gratuitous.
I agree this is not the work of a skilled architect, and I can see why you are frustrated.
Many architects would jump at the opportunity to do projects of this scale
Of course some architects like to think a builder is there merely to resolve their concepts, but there are others who take an interest in construction, in simplicity, and who want to work collaboratively. Many would jump at the opportunity to do projects of this scale.
While there are few architects in your area, it sounds like you just need to redouble your efforts to find someone you can work with. You could start with the recommendations of your favoured architect, then spread your net wider to the nearest city, which I can see is not so far away. There may also be architects who travel to your area but aren’t based there, such as those with relatives or holiday homes nearby. They might be persuaded to limit travel costs.
The fee issue is a harder one to judge. Perhaps the architect’s approximation of full fees may in your mind be inflated if you are a very competent contractor. You could communicate your fee level concerns by providing honest feedback, and allow them to decide how much they want the work. However, your clients’ resistance to high fees is most likely due to wishful thinking on what things cost. Given you are in the privileged position of being recommended, and therefore trusted to a degree, you can manage clients’ expectations on cost. Good architects exist; you just need to carry on looking.
AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at firstname.lastname@example.org